Starting from pole position, nothing worried Martin, not even the few threatening black clouds around the circuit.

The native of Madrid signed a cannonball start leaving no chance to the competition. He finished ahead of South African Brad Binder (KTM), 2nd, and Italian defending champion Bagnaia.

Very fit for a few rounds, nothing seems to stop the one nicknamed "Martinator": in addition to his second pole of the season acquired earlier in the day, Martin had also offered himself during qualifying the new track record, erasing the one set the day before by Binder during practice.

In the general classification, "Pecco" Bagnaia remains eight points ahead at the end of the day (299 points against 291 for Martin) but could be dislodged from his seat of leader at the finish of the GP on Sunday - a place he has occupied since the Spanish GP at the end of April - since the winner will score 25 additional points in the championship.

Twenty-five points that Martin will obviously have on his radar, but no question for the Ducati-Pramac rider, one of the three satellite teams of Ducati, to add pressure: "I want to enjoy the moment, of course I want to win but I do not have the duty to win as is the case for Pecco", riding a factory Ducati.

Opportunistic Zarco

"Jorge is in his best shape," said Bagnaia, second on the grid, who expected better on the track on Saturday: "I had problems with the grip," he explained. Less than a week after his crash at the Indian GP, the Italian is however "happy" to return to the Top 3.

Ducati Pramac's French rider Johann Zarco rides his bike during the MotoGP class training session of the Japanese Grand Prix, in Motegi, September 29, 2023 © Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP

In the final laps, the Italian still took the advantage - in difficulty - over Jack Miller (KTM) for third place. The Australian finished 4th ahead of Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ducati-Pramac), 5th.

The Cannes, who started 10th when the lights went out, took advantage of a mistake by Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati-VR46) and Spaniard Marc Marquez (Honda), fighting for 5th place, to overtake both riders with six laps to go.

"The moment I passed, I forced a lot," Zarco explained. "It allowed me to let go of them and avoid an attack from them. In the end all this brought me closer to Pecco (Bagnaia) and Jack (Miller) even if I could not attack him because I was too limited.

Behind, Bezzecchi, third overall, finished 6th in the sprint and lost ground to Bagnaia and Martin. He is now 47 points behind his Italian compatriot.

Spanish six-time MotoGP world champion Marquez finished in 7th position.

Earlier in the day, qualifying – which determines both the starting grid for the sprint and the GP on Sunday – failed another former world champion, Frenchman Fabio Quartararo. Not much more than the sprint. Starting 14th on the grid, the Yamaha rider finished 15th in the sprint.

Yamaha team's French rider Fabio Quartararo plays cricket on the track ahead of the Indian MotoGP Grand Prix in Greater Noida on September 21, 2023 © Money Sharma/AFP/Archives

Initially, "I made a mistake," acknowledged the 2021 champion. "I wanted to take the inside, but there was someone, so it wasn't the right decision to make."

Falling to 18th place after one lap, it was then necessary for the Nice native to fight on the handlebars of a Yamaha struggling against the competition.

© 2023 AFP